Dr. Sunoor Verma
“To decipher complexity, explore the interphase.”

A strongly motivated international strategy expert with proven expertise in propelling programs and organizations through strategic planning, strategic communications, strategic partnerships and resource mobilization with global impact.

In Conversation

Q 1. What is the highest pressure situation you faced and how did you handle it?
Trying to revive a heart with your bare hands at the end of a heart surgery is perhaps the highest pressure point that I have experienced, repeatedly. Any situation that requires triage within the context of time and resource limitations, creates pressure. Having to choose between a 3 year old girl with a shrapnel in her back and a pregnant mother to evacuate in the midst of the Kosovo refugee crisis of 1999 is another example of tough triage. I know of no other way than using scientific criteria for decision making, that would let me be at peace with myself. Establishing and using a transparent and evidence based algorithm of criteria has also helped me deliver strategic guidance to organisations in the public, private and civil society sector.

Q 2. What small stuff do you always sweat?
My father, an academician taught me early to go as close as possible to the original source of information when researching a problem. When conducting a mapping or evaluation or assessment for a program that is stuck in a ditch, I try to make sure that I have consulted with the most marginalised and invisible. Without fail, it is there that I have found that the answers to the puzzle lie. So the concern, ‘Did I find the most marginalised?’, ‘Did the counterpart understand my questions?’, ‘Did they really say what they thought?’ doesn’t easily leave me. The validity of the solutions that I implement for my clients depends on the quality of input from the stakeholders.

Q 3. As someone who has guided many international organisations into forming win-win partnerships, what are the top three mantras you would be willing to share about the ‘Art of building strategic partnerships’?
At an early age I was intrigued by the Indian system of arranged marriages. I studied it carefully- academically and empirically. I have since applied many of the lessons learnt from this ancient system to helping organisations in building symbiotic and smart partnerships. My top three mantras would be:
1. Do first hand, thorough and unbiased background research on the potential partners using as many diverse sources as possible.
2. Create effective channels of dialogue between partners with crystal clear rules of engagement.
3. Regularly conduct joint progress evaluations and keep on finetuning your strategic objectives.

Q 4. What exactly excites you about helping organisations and individuals move into philanthropy?
In my previous avatar as a surgeon I saw immense sadness in terminal patients, who felt that they had missed out on establishing a legacy of their own. When I collaborate with individuals and organisations and guide them to philanthropic endeavours, I am essentially helping them establish their legacy. My deep knowledge and more than 20 years of inter-disciplinary and international experience comes in handy in exploring what niche area of philanthropy might work best for a client. Connecting wealth to an idea that would outlive one’s mortal existence is a gift that keeps giving. My family and I also practice philanthropy and this makes me not just a ‘preacher’ but also a practitioner.

Q 5. What do you believe is the single most important quality that helped you succeed?
Being a practicing feminist is the single most important quality that has helped me truly appreciate life. My values transcend professional and private life, and internalising in early childhood that in fact women are the stronger gender has helped me lead a much more meaningful life. In every initiative that I have led, women have been the leading force across strata. At home is no different. Unlocking the potential of women in all spheres of society is imperative for the wellbeing of human race.

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